In this most recent push for equality, I am left with a particularly bitter taste in my mouth. It is a source of shame for me that we are living in the twenty-first century and it is only now that we have seen a push for equality in the United States. And, to be fair, it’s only the tiniest bit of equality which we are addressing: marriage. In many states, you can still be fired for being gay, or killed without any repercussions depending upon the color of your skin or your socioeconomic status. Hell, if you are born without a penis, you are forced to go through life subjected to the judgments about your body and your sexuality by people who will never have even the slightest conception of what it means to be a woman. I am a sensitive, intelligent human being (with the soul of a clown, which forces me to blow it at the most crucial moments), and even I cannot fully comprehend even the smallest struggles which more than half of the world’s human population must face upon a daily basis. I mean, I can understand them in theory, but I do not truly feel them as my own. With so much injustice left to face, it seems almost ridiculous that we had to waste our time on something so obvious as letting people marry.
Just to be clear: I don’t honestly care about gay marriage, insomuch as I am not gay, and have already gotten married. If two people love each other so much that they want to spend the rest of their lives together, who gives a shit if they make it official? It’s not about what it says in the Bible (unless you also believe that women are property and pork is a bad thing): telling people what they can do together in the privacy of their own homes seems socially retarded to me. Unless you are madly in love with someone (who had not yet reciprocated your amorous displays of affection), and that someone is just about to say, “I do” to someone who isn’t you, then the marriage of two people who aren’t you doesn’t affect you in the slightest. And even if you are suffering from unrequited love, sometimes that’s just how it goes. I’ve been a hopeless, romantic poet for long enough that unrequited love for me is just another way of saying breathing. What I believe that it all comes down to is that people don’t approve of sex between two (or more) people of the same gender. I mean, I guess a lot of them don’t believe in any flavor other than vanilla, either, when they go to Baskin-Robbins. But I’ve got something to say about that as well: If you haven’t been invited into the bedroom of a consenting adult, you really don’t get a say about what goes on in there.
That being said, I suppose there are some people who are genuinely disgusted by the notion of anybody having sex. I would imagine that these are the same people who write letters to various representatives, governmental agencies, and applicable corporations to complain about something which they’ve seen on the television, demanding that it be removed from the airwaves, instead of simply changing the channel. I’m not interested in the slightest bit about any of the Kardashians (well, I think that… Kourtney(?) is moderately adorable, but that’s only because my daughter usually keeps the E! channel on in the living room), but I’m not about to call somebody on the phone and demand that their television program be removed simply because I don’t much care for it. I know how to change the channel. I don’t get to decide what other people get to enjoy. As long as what someone else is doing isn’t actually harming anyone (a case could be made for the harm caused by “reality television”, but that argument is for another day, preferably when I demand that everyone should be watching Star Trek), why should it even matter what I think about it? Of course, these people are quick to jump to their inalienable right to discriminate because of what their holiest of scriptures says. They have a duty, you see, to protect us from everything they think their God might have a problem with, as if he were not, in fact, omnipotent, and capable of sorting everything out for Himself.
But here’s the thing (which I’ve said before, and will most likely say again): if people are so against marriage equality because they think that it is a virtual endorsement of the kind of “lifestyle” which they abhor, then I feel that I must pity them for having been so wrong. The quickest way to stamp out this rash of homosexual coupling is to encourage gay marriage. Sure, the honeymoon will be filled with all sorts of tender moments, but nothing kills the romance like facing down the reality that you’re going to be stuck with the same person and their jiggly bits forever. If you want to end the scourge of homosexual sex, get them to put a ring on it. The same thing goes for all the other “deviants” out there. Nothing puts the flames of adventurous relations like a long-term, monogamous commitment. Or, I suppose, these people could just get over themselves and pick something else to work themselves into a lather about.
It all comes down to whether we believe that we have the right to tell other people who they have to be. I don’t have that right, and I can’t claim that I am being persecuted if no one lets me enforce my vision upon everyone who might disagree. It’s disgusting that we’re even still having this discussion, and the fact that we’re having it at all is progress. I don’t care about gay marriage, because I don’t care about marriages that don’t even tangentially affect me, and if one of my friends gets married, the only thing I care about is if they love each other and treat each other well. End of discussion.
I am sitting down to knowingly write what will most likely be my most unpopular column, and I’m strangely okay with that. In writing about our failings as a species yesterday, I left out one topic: Domestic Violence. When I was growing up, my mother, grandfather, and almost every adult that I came in contact with, at some point would remind me that is was never okay to hit a girl. This was all fine and well until one time, at a family reunion when I was about twelve or thirteen years old, my cousin (a girl just a little younger than myself) decided to spend all afternoon harassing and striking me, and according to every single adult figure of authority, there was nothing that I was allowed to do to defend myself. After all, it was never okay to hit a girl. As I grew older, and entered high school, I frequently saw my friends’ conversations with their girlfriends punctuated by punches, kicks, and slaps, all which was not only tolerated, but cheered on from the sidelines. Say something stupid? Deadarm. Say something cluelessly hurtful? Slap across the face. Bored? Just kick your boyfriend somewhere and then make that cute face that he seems to really like.
Let me go on record as saying that I am against Domestic Violence. Let me go further by saying that I am generally against violence altogether. My son has been taught that it’s not okay to hit anyone, except in times of self-defense. And then I’ve told him that he is only to use the bare minimum of violence necessary to escape the situation and allow the authorities to sort everything out. I do not say this a snarky rebuttal to feminism or as a counterpoint to undercut calls for equality. I am not allying myself with the Men’s Rights Movement, which only seems interested in saying the foulest things that its members can come up with regarding women. I am teaching my son to defend himself as such because I have been the victim of domestic violence. At the hands of two different women. Four years apart. I am willing to accept that I am easily one of the most infuriating people that it is possible to come to know, but that is no excuse for “violent or aggressive behavior within the home, typically involving the violent abuse of a spouse or partner.” Unless I’m completely off-base, at which point, please excuse me, I’ve got a gritty reboot of Caillou to start working on.
No, I did not report these incidents to the police, nor did I spend time receiving comfort from my friends. Until recently, it seems we were still too “manly” to feel comfortable talking about one of us getting the shit kicked out of us by “a girl.” I stand roughly five and a half feet in height, and my extra weight is most definitely not muscle mass. Hell, the first time that someone I was dating decided to beat the daylights out of me, I had never even heard of some guy calling up the cops on his abusive girlfriend. I mean, to be fair, this was in the late ’90’s, but that still doesn’t feel right to me. By the time I lived was being introduced to the fists of my next (and last) abuser, I had begun to believe, despite the overwhelming evidence against me, that maybe even I did not deserve to be wailed upon by someone whom I cared for and her tiny little bony fists. That relationship ended shortly thereafter, and it was at that point that I decided that I wouldn’t allow myself to be a victim anymore. I realize that I am using humor here and there, but about this, I am deadly serious.
I began a period of self-reflection after the last time I was abused, and wondered if maybe it was my fault for being so strongly attracted to women who seemed to want nothing other than to break me. Maybe not at first, but imagine living with Gilbert Gottfried (but imagine that he’s funny). I blamed myself for finding them, and then for learning to provoke them. I felt ashamed that I was beaten by someone whom society deemed “weaker,” and was terrified to call the cops for fear of ridicule, or worse, that they would take me away because I don’t bruise all that easily, and when you’re holding someone’s arms away so that she cannot keep on hitting you, and your girlfriend bruises like bananas… well, you get the idea. I blamed myself for so long, that when I met my wife, I was still jumping at every shadow. And when we talked about taking our relationship to the next level, I could only recall the last two times that I had lived together with a girlfriend, and I have to admit that I was a little terrified.
When my wife and I began to live together, we sat down and spoke, at length, about what types of behavior we found acceptable, and also, what wasn’t necessarily on that list that we were willing to put up with. Despite the stereotype of the drunken Mexican beating his wife, or perhaps because of it, my wife told me that if I ever laid a finger upon her in anger, we were through. I wholeheartedly agreed and told her that I didn’t find it cute for women to attack their boyfriends, and if she tried it, she’d be out on the street before she had the chance to blink. Now, since we’ve laid down that groundwork, we’ve found ways to come right up to the edge of our own prohibitions, her with dishes, and myself with walls, but we’ve never struck each other (intentionally; there have been a handful of occasions on both sides where and elbow doesn’t quite clear the head, or a foot sinks someone’s knee backward into the bed), and I don’t believe we ever will.
This is not satire. I’m not trying to be cute. These are real experiences. Domestic Violence is not a laughing matter. If you are being abused, please try to get some help. Get out of there. I have found that you can only beat the living shit out of someone who you don’t respect, and if he or she doesn’t respect you, then please: Get The Hell Out!
Never underestimate the human capacity for getting everything wrong. Why is it that we always seem to find the need to categorize some group as “Other”? Our history is marked by the hard-fought steps toward equality, and what makes it all the more disheartening is that the argument itself never seems to change, only the group to which it is applied. We now can all accept (well, most of us, anyway) that people should not be allowed to own one another, and that interracial marriage doesn’t lead to bestiality. It should be obvious that women are every bit the equal of their tripodal opposites, and that the differences between the sexes are no basis for a comparative judgement on superiority. The Blacks didn’t steal the White man’s jobs, and the Latinos aren’t stealing them now. Gay Marriage isn’t about granting special privileges to a certain group, any more than feminism is about destroying men. Sure, each and every one of us will take every advantage we are given, but when it’s obvious that the game is rigged against us, who among us would not speak out? And why is it so easy to turn a blind eye to the suffering of someone whom you do not know?
I’ve only faced two hurdles in my quest for dominance: I wasn’t born into the 1%, and I suffer from a mental illness. In every other conceivable way, I am so far ahead in the game that I am a little ashamed that I haven’t done any better than I have. The worst I have to deal with is someone assuming that I have lots of money, and a good credit score, and then screaming at me because I cannot spare a dollar. I have had no issue getting hired just because my name’s spelled “different”, and have never been passed over for a promotion because someone assumed that I would not be able to command the respect of my employees. I have been frequently undervalued in the workplace, but the woman who took over a restaurant from me when I moved to the other store across the bay wound up making $5/hour less than I had, all while doing performing the same job. Yes, I did have more experience than her, and yes, I was also about a decade older, but a job is still a job, and no one should make only $13 every hour to be a restaurant’s General Manager.
When my wife decided that the time had come for us to marry (she was tired of wasting her time on something so open-ended), we had no trouble with it at all. I may have mentioned before that I am an atheist, and as such, wasn’t really interested in a fancy church-type wedding. My wife was Catholic, and for us to have been married in the eyes of her faith, I would have had to convert, and that wasn’t going to happen. We went to the Oakland Courthouse, filled out some paperwork, and then had a pleasant little ceremony in front of family and friends. Done. We didn’t want a church wedding, and we didn’t get one. If marriage is a religious institution, as many have suggested, then I should never have been allowed to marry. But no one has said a single about that, even when I bring it up, because my wife and I are of “complimentary” genders. At this point, the conversation turns to the reason for marriage, which, supposedly, is to populate the world. I then ask if marriages should be annulled if a couple cannot conceive. Or simply decide they don’t want children. Or want to adopt, instead. Again, the crickets become almost deafening.
I really just don’t understand.
It’s not a zero-sum game that we, the human race, are playing: trickle-down economics have taught us that. When one group is given an institutional advantage under the pretense that it will be better for everyone, it never is. I have known wealthy people, and the majority of them do not spend a single penny more than they are absolutely required to by law. Those of us without portfolios, because we cannot afford to leave our money out of reach, tend to spend it when we get it, and pump our hard-earned dollars right back into the economy. The more money that we have to spend, the more money we will spend. Yes, we will pay off our bills, and most of us will try to be responsible, but after years of making hard decisions regarding healthcare versus eating, it’s nice to pick up something that isn’t a necessity. And the more we spend, the more jobs will be required, as it takes more people to work the registers when there’s a constant line spilling out the door.
Letting someone else do something that you can do isn’t granting privileges, and they aren’t “special rights.” The world will not come to an end if two dudes can marry, and it will not end if women are finally thought of as something other than the “weaker sex.” Yes, the millionaires and billionaires might see their money vaults become a little emptier, should workers have the right to earn a living wage, but more money than god is still more money than god. And just because someone doesn’t share the same faith as you, doesn’t mean that they’re declaring war upon it.
I’ve made the point before, but I feel it bears repeating: If you are in the majority, you are not being persecuted. That’s kind of the benefit of having a majority. And, after having been railroaded into being confirmed into the Lutheran sect of the Christian faith when I was barely able to grow facial hair, and having read the Bible cover to cover, I am even more confused by those who wear a crucifix and spout off about how Jesus disapproves. Correct me if I’m wrong, as it’s been awhile since I peeked at those red letters, but I remember Mr. Christ wanting to keep money out of religion, feed the hungry, help the poor, and generally treat people better than they had been. He never said anything about a “homosexual agenda,” but I do remember something about wealthy tailors and their camels. And the parts of the Old Testament that people flip to when they are in dire need of something with which they can condemn complete strangers (Leviticus, primarily), are nestled right in among prohibitions on diet, fashion, and the sale of daughters, which are frequently ignored. It was my understanding that Jesus came to redeem the world, not start a cult of hatred and oppression.
And since I seem to be determined to piss everybody off, let’s talk about feeding the hungry and helping the poor. I mean, first we’ll have to drug test them, and scrutinize their lives for any mistakes they may have made (because we all know that no one who’s in power has ever taken a misstep), humiliate them, demonize them, moralize and then demoralize them. If they are going to receive our the fruits of our taxed labor, then they had better be on the straight and narrow, just like those we send to represent us in state and national government. Are there people who game the system? Yes. But that epidemic is not limited to just the working poor. Or those who cannot even get a job that doesn’t pay enough. If you say that we are a Christian nation, but allow a man (or woman, or child) to starve, then you haven’t been paying attention. That little “t” around your neck is not a status symbol. There will always be people who take advantage of the kindness and decency of others, but that is no excuse to punish everyone who might need help.
From there, let’s shift to voting rights, since I’m detecting an underlying theme. If your political party cannot exist unless you deprive citizens of their right to participate in their own representative democracy, you need better ideas. The goal should be to make everybody’s voice heard, even if they disagree with everything you’re saying. I, for one, do not appreciate a slide back into a state of feudalism. Money shouldn’t determine the social agenda, and wages shouldn’t consign someone to slavery. If you cannot make enough to get by, even if you’re working sixteen hours in a day, you don’t need to see the shackles to know that they are there. There is an overwhelming sense of apathy in regard to the electoral process. Every vote counts is a beautiful sentiment, but when decent people are barred from running because they refuse to sell their soul, and a candidate can garner fewer votes than his opponent, but walk away the president, I see why people just don’t care. And if no one turns out to cast their ballot, the election becomes a contest between fanatics. And that’s when you get legislation like this:
In Florida (because, of course it’s Florida), there is a bill in the State House which would ban transgender people from using “single-sex public facilities” to which they were not biologically (genetically) eligible. The bill states that its purpose is to “secure privacy and security for all individuals using single-sex public facilities.” Which, on the surface, seems like a noble cause. People should be able to feel safe and secure when they are at their most vulnerable, i.e., when then are in a state of undress. “Single-sex public facilities are places of increased vulnerability and present the potential for crimes against individuals using those facilities, including, but not limited to, assault, battery, molestation, rape, voyeurism, and exhibitionism.” Again, good on you for recognizing that. Of course, these actions may be committed by people not banned under this bill, so it only disproportionately affects those who identify with a gender that they were not fortunate enough to have been born into.
There are so many things I get to take for granted as a white, heterosexual male. I can walk down the street and not worry about harassment from the cops, or catcalls or intimidation from the opposite sex. My instinctual expressions of love (well, most of them, anyway) have never been criminalized. It’s actually a little depressing to think of how little I’ve accomplished with all of the opportunities that I was lucky enough to born into. I cannot imaging the courage that it takes for those without my privileges to face such an uphill battle. Life is hard enough without knowing that you’re probably going to be worse off for having tried for something better.
I imagine that I may have lost some of my audience somewhere along the way, and I can only say that if I have offended you, I am glad. It means that I have challenged your beliefs, and I can only hope that you will take the time to consider if they might be in need of re-evaluation. I don’t know that I have all the answers, and I don’t presume to speak for everyone. There are experiences that I will never have, and that both reassures and saddens me. I speak not because I feel that others cannot, but instead, because I have a soapbox upon which I am allowed to preach. I have many failings, as my wife will more than happily attest, but each and every day I try to leave myself open to the possibility of learning something new. Don’t tell anyone, but on a few occasions, I have been known to fall a little short of right, and as much as it has violently abused my ego, in the long run I would rather know the truth.
We cannot hide back in the past, nor look within it for our answers to the future. We must learn from our mistakes, for our victories teach us so much less. The history of humanity is a brutal struggle with our world and with our very selves, but we have made at least some progress since the dawn of time, and despite our best intentions, will most likely make some more, if we don’t drive ourselves toward extinction.
And here’s a little something to put your day back on track: